Huff hopes venture into hemp crop will be a boon to his farm’s success

Posted September 4, 2019 at 8:57 am


In 2018, a Farm Bill passed which could open up possibilities for farmers in Kentucky.

SB 50, backed by Senator Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, basically made Kentucky the 9th state to allow the growing and production of industrial hemp.

Locally, one farmer and his family are taking a risk on the crop and have put out five acres of hemp, which is one of only two farms in the county with licenses to grow hemp.

“The smaller plant is called Trump, which it has more of a skunky smell to it and the larger plant is called Baox and it has kind of a citrus smell to it,” Bobby Huff said.

Huff, his wife, Patricia, and two children, Lylah and Layton, live in the Concord Community of Albany. Other than farming, Huff is also a pharmacist at Shearer Drug in Albany.

Currently, hemp is categorized as a Schedule I banned substance by the Controlled Substances Act for its relative similarity to its cousin cannabis, which contains high levels of psychoactive mind-altering chemicals. But industrial hemp differs from marijuana in that it does not produce a high, and has a multitude of industrial uses.

“This is genetically altered,” Huff said. “It’s high in CBD and low in THC. The stuff we have had low, low, low concentrations of THC and high concentrations of CBD. The opposite is true for your marijuana plant. It has high THC and low CBD.”

CBD oil from hemp plants are considered 100 percent legal and it is considered a dietary supplement by the FDA. That means it’s legal to ship and consume throughout all 50 states within the US.

Huff said harvesting hemp will be similar in the time frame that tobacco is. His crop was set out July 1 and will probably be cut and hung in a barn the last week of September to early October.

“That’s what we are growing. The oil you see that is being sold, this will be going to a buyer and they will make the CBD oil and sell it,” Huff said. “I think we are the only one in the county who is growing it here, but there are several farmers in Tennessee who are growing it.”

It can also be made into a clothing textile and is an alternative to plastic and petroleum.

Huff said in order to be able to grow hemp legally, you first must apply with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and get a license.

“Colby Guffey, from the Clinton County Extension Office, is where I learned about it,” Huff said. “Colby is a valuable resource that a lot of people don’t even realize. He knows everything. He helped me get the paperwork going.”

Even though the 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the controlled substance list, no person can grow, handle, or process hemp plants, viable seed, leaf or floral materials without a hemp license issued by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

In order to apply to get a license, Huff said there are several items you have to provide in order to be considered.

“You have to give them GPS coordinates, criminal background checks, you have to go to a training, and then, of course, there are some fees for licensing and stuff,” Huff said. “The biggest thing I’ve ran into is that it’s so new that there is no treatment for some of the things that can go wrong with the plants.”

Like many plants, corn, soybean, and tobacco, molds and fungus can be an issue from time to time and many, without treatment, can wipe out an entire crop.

With hemp, Huff said there is no treatment for the type of mold that can occur on the plants.

“Here you have all this money into this crop and a fungus could wipe it out and there is no treatment for it,” Huff said.

One reason Huff said he was willing to try his hand in the hemp industry is the simple fact that farming is down economically.

“Cattle is down … I love the chicken industry, however they have reduced the flocks to accommodate the market and there just isn’t a lot of cash flow,” Huff said.

As is with any kind of investment, the risk is there and Huff agrees that growing hemp is a risk for him and his family.

“It’s a huge risk definitely,” Huff said. “There is a substantial ability to make some money, but … on the flip side, we could lose it all pretty quickly. It looks great right now, but from what we are learning it could change pretty quickly too.”

The market will be 100 percent tied to supply and demand.

“We have a contract. A lot of the guys I know who grow it don’t have a contract,” Huff said.

All of Huff’s plants are irrigated which gives the plants a source of water if needed as well as an opportunity to fertilize the crop as well.

“It was really more of an insurance policy for ourselves,” Huff said. “We’ve had a pretty wet summer, so we haven’t had to use it as much.”

Huff said his crop is laid out seven feet to seven feet to the center of the row and each plant is setting four feet part to the center of the plant.

“If I had to recommend it, I think I would tell people to wait,” Huff said. “Thinking you’re going to go into it and make a lot, well you could, but you could also loose a lot. Colby is an invaluable resource and a lot of people don’t realize that the extension office is there for us to bounce stuff off of. There is all kinds of issues that can arise … fungus, insects, and you can’t spray the plants with anything because the FDA hasn’t approved anything to spray on them.”

As the hemp industry grows, Huff said it will get easier, but when more people get into it the price of the product will go down.

“I’m a gambler by nature really. I gambled and built the chicken houses and it has paid off,” Huff said. “The biggest thing we have realized is housing it. You have to have a lot of barn room. It will be a lot like tobacco … we will be cutting it by hand.”

Huff believes eventually, it will allow farmers in Kentucky to get back to making a profit on their land.

“Everybody I know has a tobacco barn on their property. They could grow a half acre of hemp, put it up and get some money generated, but it’s not there right now,” Huff said. “I hope it works out. Not just for me, but for in general. My dad has grown tobacco for years and there is no money in it.”

From a farm perspective, Huff said the farmers in the county are starving for something to work.

“I applied last year in October. You have to start about a year ahead. Colby can put anyone in the direction to get them going. We had to go to Frankfort and do background checks and everything. If anybody else had this it would be illegal. We have a license. It’s a risky endeavor.”

Since Huff has started the hemp production in Albany, he has had some admirers. Recently on Facebook, Huff said he asked for no one to come into his property uninvited.

“If anyone wants to see what we are doing farmwise, just ask and we can schedule up a time to look or talk,” Huff said on his Facebook post on Friday, August 23.

Huff said he has had several visitors to come to his residence and look at his fields of hemp.

“There were two guys last week who came down and I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me,” Huff said. “I think its an oddity to see this much. I would set up a field day if people wanted to come out. They wouldn’t have to pay anything. Because it is interesting, I get that, but coming in and out without permission is not going to be something we want. Other than seeing it, there’s really nothing anyone else can do with it. You can’t sell it, you can’t get high off it … it’s not that type of plant. We live down here. We have three great danes running around. From a liability stand point, I really don’t want anybody down here.”

Hemp derived CBD products are legal in Kentucky pursuant to 40 KRS 218A.010(27).

License holders investing at this early stage in the research should be aware that federal law is subject to change. There is uncertainty at the federal level on what parts of the hemp plant can be lawfully sold.

Bobby Huff, wife, Patrica and two children, Lylah and Layton, stood in front of their five acre hemp crop last week. Huff said he is taking a huge risk by planting the crop, but hopes it will help farmers in the area.